Tuesday night, I spoke to a group of kids from my old acting studio, Atlanta Workshop Players. Every year, they come out to LA and I do a little thing with them. It’s always a blast. This year, rockstar manager April Mills joined me. Last year, it was superstar manager Kathy Colorado and megastar agent Robin Spitzer. Excellent stuff. Always.
Well, this year, one of the kids did a monologue for us and, in reviewing his resumé, I noticed he attends North Springs High School (my alma mater; which had no drama club when I started there… but it sure as hell did by the time I left… and now it’s a Performing Arts Magnet School, if that tells you anything). So, in my very Bonnie-like way, I commented on many elements of the young actor’s work, and then said,
Three or four kids in the room jumped up and began singing the North Springs Spartans’ fight song. They were THRILLED that “someone famous that they’d met in Hollywood” went to North Springs. I was beyond amused by this statement, and I proceeded to list the famous people *I* loved knowing went there, before/during my time there: John Schneider, musical gods Richie Robinson, Jeff Sullivan, Jeff Pinkus (all three of whom were in my math class), and of course my cousin Faith Salie.
Very funny to the adults in the room. The kids rolled their eyes, like kids are supposed to do.
Okay, so cut to another scene a bit later. It’s brilliantly funny. I ask the kid what it’s from and he says, “Oh, it’s really old. It’s from something called ‘Kids in the Hall.'” (And he says this as if this “Kids in the Hall” thing and the Spanish Inquisition happened around the same time.) Again… I remember being 15 and thinking that way about stuff.
But it’s what came after that was most brilliant.
“Well, you know,” he says (off my reaction, which is getting laughs by the bellyful all around the room), “I think there was a lot of funny stuff from your era. Like ‘Welcome Back Kotter,’ for example.”
One of the adults in the room (who was one of MY coaches when *I* was a kid at AWP camp) says, “That’s from MY generation. Not Bonnie’s!”
And the kid says, “Well, you know what I mean. Like the old ‘Mork & Mindy’ days.”
I finally scream (through laughter), “STOP DIGGING THIS DITCH!!!”
By now, we’re all in tears laughing.
It was just really funny.
So, anyway, I’m thinking tonight about how I’m the White Oprah (or, Whoprah, as I like to say) and how I have my Steadman and my Gayle and all of my kids. And today, one of the “kids” in the showcase (during our IM-based conference about his type and resumé format, etc.) asked if I miss acting.
“Nah,” I said. “I get to perform weekly, pretty much. I get up in front of a group of people and I talk and crack jokes. They listen and they laugh and they take notes and then they all come up to me after and get my autograph (in books) and it’s all very much like being an actor, except I don’t have to pay union dues or audition. I just show up and do my thing. And I love it.”
And I do.
And then I get these amazing emails from people I’ve never met who say they’ve been reading my words forEVER (which is, at most, since 1999, when I started writing for Back Stage West, unless they were reading my “Don’t Get Me Started” or “It’s Like This” or “Girls of Grace” columns before that) and that I’ve somehow changed their lives for the better… that they never would’ve “done this” if not for something I’ve written.
And the “done this” is simple. LIVE THEIR DREAMS.
I don’t know. It seems so easy to say that no one should need to hear from someone else that it’s okay to do that… but hell, maybe there is something to the fact that crazy dreams feel more validated when someone is writing about going for it (and doing so with passion and smarts and accountability and authenticity). And just like some kids went back to Atlanta feeling like, “Wow. I can make it, even though I come from this little place… because Bonnie Gillespie came from this school and look at her,” maybe it’s not even the stuff that we DO, but that what we DO… we do big.
In case that’s what matters, that’s what I’m doing. Living big. And I’m loving it, loving it, loving it.
(And yes, to those of you who have written to me about how much my life is about to change, I know. I see it. I feel it coming. And I guess that’s why I keep stopping every now and then to write it all down. I don’t want to forget how any of this felt. No more than I want to forget how it felt to write up the first Drama Club Steering Committee raison d’être with David Salie in the ’80s. You know… back before fire was discovered.)